Saturday, December 29, 2007

NFL Perfection Makes the BCS umm-Perfect?

It finally happened, and it's over. The New England Patriots defeated the Giants to finished the regular season with an unblemished mark of 16-0. The NFL has their superstar, and now legendary team. The networks cashed in on the drive for 16, and the league filled their pockets by selling the rights for games to be aired. For the first time in 35 years, the pros gave us something to watch from beginning to end. I guess we could equate that to Barry Bonds' chase of Aaron, and how it became a media spectacle and money maker for the MLB.

But the truth is, what those leagues are enjoying once in decades, you can find on the college gridiron on just about any Saturday. Every college weekend features important games. Every week is about a team trying to maintain a zero in the loss column. A single loss can shatter your dreams for a national title. A single loss in conference can burst your BCS bubble and deny the automatic bid. A single loss for a mid-major, and you're not crashing anyone's BCS party.

It's an ongoing debate about creating a playoff format in Division I or leaving it as is. Personally, I'd love to see a champion crowned by their achievements on the field, facing others that are chasing the same dream. But at the same time, I can see where the opposition for a playoff system is coming from. Monetary losses are a big reason some school presidents are against it, but some fans oppose the thought, for the simple fact that a playoff system would reduce the importance of regular season games.

If we had a playoff format in college football, the victories by Stanford, Appalachian State, and Pitt over greater opponents don't mean as much. It becomes just another game. With a playoff system, dropping one or two won't hurt you. There would be about as much buzz about those upsets as there is for the Eagles beating the Cowboys or maybe Dayton beating Pitt in college hoops. The Cowboys move on to the playoffs, Pitt will eventually advance to the NCAA tournament, and those games are forgotten. There is no forgetting in college football, upset losses stick with you for the entire season, and possibly for years.

Just imagine this, The LSU Tigers, after wrapping up the SEC west division, sit their starters in the final regular season game versus Arkansas. What is there to play for? The bigger prize is to be gained in the SEC title game. Screw bragging rights, if you can have a rested team playing for the automatic playoff bid. In college ball you find teams down 21 in the fourth quarter, desperately giving all they have, hoping and praying to get the come from behind win. It's because it's not just one game on a schedule. It's your entire season compressed into that last 15 minutes of play. What becomes of rivalry games? Sure, there will still be the hate. The Skins and Cowboys are playing in an NFL rivalry game this weekend. The Cowboys starters won't see much action. Just imagine if there was no NFL playoffs and these rivals met, with the Skins in position to totally F**k the entire season for Dallas. Now how much emphasis is on that game? Trust me, there would be a mad rush to ensure it's televised nationally, to cash in on the value of this rivalry.

That's what occurred in the Pitt/WVU game. It's what happened in last season's UCLA/USC game. It's a constant in the Big 10, with Michigan and Ohio State, and it's what Missouri did to the their border rivals of Kansas. It's one thing to beat your neighbor, but it's another to shatter their championship dreams along the way. All the teams I mentioned needed wins against their rivals to win or stay in the hunt for their conference titles, except for one, WVU, who would have also had the luxury of resting their starters during the backyard brawl.

A playoff system would give us a true champion, but the BCS keeps us focused on the regular season. The highest rated games for the NFL in this '07 season were the Patriots/Colts, Patriots/Steelers, and I'm sure tonight's Patriots/Giants will top those. Viewers tuned in to see someone knock the Patriots from their perch and spoil their run. That's what the college fan tunes in for, on any given Saturday.

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